TCU-Utah Duel Takes Center Stage
By: Mitch Light | 11/4/10, 12:00 PM EDT
TCU (-4.5) at Utah
For the first time in the 13-year history of the BCS, there are three teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences ranked in the top five of the BCS standings. Two of those three teams get together this weekend in Salt Lake City in a game that almost assuredly will determine the champion of the Mountain West Conference. Utah and TCU have been dominant on both sides of the ball all season long; both schools rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense. So which team is more dominant? The guess here is TCU, which has a few more quality wins by more decisive margins. The Horned Frogs own wins over Oregon State (by nine), Baylor (by 35) and Air Force (by 31).
TCU 30, Utah 17
Alabama (-6.5) at LSU
Auburn is the only undefeated team in the SEC and is ranked No. 2 in the BCS Standings, but Alabama is still very much in the national title chase. The Tide, No. 6 in the BCS, will likely climb to at least No. 2 if they run the table, which would of course include a win over Auburn. First things first, however. A talented but enigmatic LSU team awaits Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have been consistently strong on defense but remain a work-in-progress (to put it kindly) on offense. The quarterback situation is a mess, with neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrert Lee showing the ability to seize the job on a full-time basis. You can never count out LSU at Tiger Stadium, but Nick Saban should improve to 3–0 against his former team.
Alabama 20, LSU 10
Baylor (+7) at Oklahoma State
First place is on the line in the Big 12 South when Baylor visits Oklahoma State. The Bears have been arguably the biggest surprise in college football this season. They improved to 7–2 overall and 4–1 in the Big 12 with a 30–22 win in Texas — their first in Austin since 1987. Art Briles’ teams are known for their pass-happy attack, but the Bears have nice offensive balance and have been better than expected on defense. Oklahoma State has also surprised this season. With 17 starters gone from last year’s nine-win team, the Pokes were picked to finish no higher than fifth in the South by most. There is still plenty of heavy lifting, but a win over Baylor would be a big step toward their first-ever division title.
Oklahoma State 30, Baylor 27
Arizona (+9.5) at Stanford
Undefeated and top-ranked Oregon is in control of the Pac-10 race, but there are three teams with only one loss — Arizona, Stanford and Oregon State. All three still have their sights set on a league title, but there is no shame in a second-place finish in the Pac-10 this season. If Oregon remains among the top two teams in the BCS, the Ducks will head to the national title game, possibly opening up a spot for the No. 2 team from the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl. (It's a bit confusing, but the Rose Bowl might be forced to take a non-AQ team in this spot.) Stanford’s last postseason trip to Pasadena was on Jan. 1, 2000 during the Ty Willingham era. Arizona is the only Pac-10 team that has never been to the Rose Bowl. It’s safe to say this is a huge game for both schools.
Stanford 34, Arizona 24
Arkansas (+4) at South Carolina
Arkansas and South Carolina have played every season since both schools joined the SEC in 1992. This is the first time both teams have had a winning league record at the time of the game. South Carolina is alone atop the East with a 4–2 record while Arkansas is tied for fourth in the much-stronger West at 3–2. Surprisingly, this game figures to have no bearing on the Gamecocks’ chances of winning the East for the first time ever. Unless Vanderbilt beats Florida — which isn’t likely — the winner of the South Carolina-Florida game (in Gainesville) on Nov. 13 will represent the East in Atlanta. This game likely will be decided by which defense can do a better job covering up its weaknesses. South Carolina can’t stop the pass, and throwing the ball is Arkansas’ strength. On the other hand, Arkansas struggles to stop the run, which could mean big things for South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore. The talent level is pretty even. Arkansas is due for a big win.
Arkansas 34, South Carolina 31
Illinois (+3) at Michigan
Illinois is very quietly enjoying a solid season, with an overall record of 5–3 and a 3–2 mark in the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini’s three losses have come against Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State, three top 15 teams that have a combined three losses. He’s not completely out of the woods, but embattled Illinois coach Ron Zook appears to have saved his job — for now. Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez, on the other hand, might be playing his way back on to the hot seat. After a 5–0 start, the Wolverines have lost three straight games, bringing back memories of late-season collapses in both 2008 and ’09 (1–7 over the final eight games each season). This is a very, very, very big game for Michigan.
Michigan 33, Illinois 28
Florida (-14) at Vanderbilt
Florida got back on track last week with a 34–31 overtime win over Georgia. The Gators rolled up 450 yards of offense, keeping the Dawgs off-balance with a no-huddle, hurry-up attack that produced big plays with both John Brantley at quarterback and Trey Burton taking snaps out of the Wildcat formation. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, continued its epic struggles on offense in a 49–14 loss at Arkansas. The Commodores scored on their first two possessions in Fayetteville but did not pick up another first down until the fourth quarter. In SEC games, Vanderbilt is averaging 10.4 points per game — only Akron (10.2 ppg) and Kansas (10.0) average fewer in their respective conferences — and a paltry 195.6 yards per game (by far the worst of any team in the nation in conference games).
Florida 30, Vanderbilt 7
Louisville (+6) at Syracuse
They are flying a bit under the national radar, but the Syracuse Orange — one of the worst BCS programs in the nation over the past five years — are 6–2 overall and 3–1 in the Big East (with all three wins on the road). Granted, three of the victories have come against a very, very bad FBS team (Akron) and two FCS foes (Maine and Colgate), but SU does have wins at West Virginia, South Florida and Cincinnati. Louisville is also an improved team, but the Cardinals might be without Bilal Powell, who ranks fifth in the nation in rushing.
Syracuse 24, Louisville 14
Oklahoma (-3) at Texas A&M
Oklahoma is 7–1 overall and ranked No. 8 in the BCS standings yet is only a 3-point favorite at Texas A&M. Seems a bit curious, but keep in mind that this is only the Sooners’ third road game of the season, and they struggled in their first two— winning by two points against a Cincinnati team that is 3–5 and losing 36–29 at Missouri two weeks ago. Texas A&M, at 5–3 overall and 2–2 in the Big 12, has been a disappointment, but this is still a pretty good team. The Aggies don’t really have any quality wins, but they also don’t have any bad losses (at O-State, vs. Arkansas, Missouri). Ryan Tannehill has been superb since taking over at quarterback from Jerrod Johnson, completing 48-of-66 passes for 604 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. I smell an upset.
Texas A&M 30, Oklahoma 24
Northwestern (+5) at Penn State
Northwestern is already bowl-eligible at 6–2, but the Wildcats haven’t exactly faced the most difficult slate. They are 3–2 vs. BCS conference opponents, with the three wins coming against Vanderbilt (by two points), Minnesota (by one) and Indiana (by three). Don’t be surprised if this team ends the regular season with a 6–6 record. Penn State is feeling pretty good about itself for the first time in a while (maybe all season). The Nittany Lions improved to 5–3 last week with a 41–31 win over Michigan that wasn’t quite as tight as the score indicates. With Matt McGloin running the offense, the Lions rolled up 41 points (most against an FBS opponent) and 435 yards (most against a Big Ten opponent). McGloin is likely to get the start again this week, but true freshman Rob Bolden might play as well.
Penn State 27, Northwestern 21
Last week: 7–3 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 59–31 overall (44–42–4 against the spread)
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